Discover more from Missio Dei
A Religion of Sacred Revelation; Not of the Book
Gospel Reflection for Ascension Thursday
In the first book, Theophilus,
I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
until the day he was taken up,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them
by many proofs after he had suffered,
appearing to them during forty days
and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While meeting with them,
he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for “the promise of the Father
about which you have heard me speak;
for John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
When they had gathered together they asked him,
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons
that the Father has established by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they were looking on,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee,
why are you standing there looking at the sky?
This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven
will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”
The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
What an honor to write the Gospel Reflection on Ascension Thursday! Before we get into the reflection though, I would like to remind you to pray the litany to the Holy Face of Jesus today. Our Lord asked us to pray it every Sunday and Holy Day, and the “Golden Arrow” prayer daily. By doing so, He promised to defeat the evils being spread through the world by the satanic forces of communism, socialism, atheism and what we now call liberalism or progressivism (although such ideologies are not liberal or progressive at all, but fascist by definition). There is a wonderful organization in France called the Archconfraternity of the Holy Face of Jesus, operated by the League of Saint Martin, that will send you a white scapular and a cross bearing the Holy Face, prayer cards and pamphlets, essentially for free (https://www.martinians.org/archconfraternity-1). There are also several American organizations that promote this devotion, and TAN Books has some wonderful resources.
Recently, I have been having a respectful, if unproductive, debate with a nice lady who is a “Torah Observant Chrisitan.” This is a fairly new Protestant group that claims Christians must honor the Jewish sabbath, all Jewish holy days and observations, and Torah law in general. She claims that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi and that Christians must follow all the laws and traditions of Moses. Frankly, this is baffling to me as the New Testament makes clear that Christians no longer followed the laws of circumcision or Jewish dietary laws, etc. Even the following passage should dispel the Torah Observant heresy (and it is but one of many along these lines) - by Saint Paul who wrote such things as this in Colossians:
"You were dead, because you were sinners and uncircumcised in body: he has brought you to life with him, he has forgiven us every one of our sins. He has wiped out the record of our debt to the Law, which stood against us; he has destroyed it by nailing it to the cross; and he has stripped the sovereignties and the ruling forces, and paraded them in public, behind him in his triumphal procession. Then never let anyone criticise you for what you eat or drink, or about observance of annual festivals, New Moons or Sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what was coming: the reality is the body of Christ."
Regardless, after I proved to her that the early Church worshipped on Sunday because that is the day that Christ rose, using the Didache and the writings of the early Church fathers, she maintains that the Apostles had no authority so to do. She claims that Sunday worship is the sign that The Catholic Church… and, presumably all Protestant churches that hold services on Sunday, is a false religion. What it comes down to is a very extreme interpretation of the Protestant doctrine of “sola scriptura” or, The Bible Alone, as the sole authority. Even though she admits that the Apostles wrote the New Testament and were preserved from error by the Holy Spirit in their writing, she will not admit that they ever taught anything not contained within the Bible or that the words of Jesus (at least on matters of importance) were not entirely recorded in the Bible. She will also not admit that Our Lord gave His apostles full authority to teach and govern the Church after He ascended to heaven.
Today’s readings are interesting in two regards. The first is the period of time prior to the Ascension. For forty days, the resurrected Savior was with His Apostles, teaching them more plainly than He had before the Crucifixion. Yet, very little is recorded about this period. Presumably, our Lord taught them more in that period of time than He had in all that is recorded in the gospels. Yet, the Bible is largely silent on this matter. Who knows, but that Jesus may have even instructed them to observe Mass on Sundays? One can only speculate and speculation gets us nowhere. We do know that He taught them a great deal, but as Saint John tells us, “There was much else that Jesus did; if it were written down in detail, I do not suppose the world itself would hold all the books that would be written.”
Another important point in today’s readings is the authority Jesus gave His Apostles. He commanded them to teach to others what He had taught them. He states that He has all power in heaven and earth, and the Apostles will be His representatives. Their words would be His words and their authority His authority. As we read in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said, “Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.”
As Catholics we must remember that nowhere in the Bible is it written that the Bible alone is the sole authority or the full teaching of God and His Church. While it states that scripture is good for instruction, in First Timothy we are read, “…. the Church of the living God, pillar and support of the truth.” We have the fullness of the Truth. That is something our Protestant brothers and sisters lack. That is not something about which to brag, but a great responsibility. In the writings of the Church, from the early fathers to the present day, we can find the answers to not only all of life’s problems and the issues that confront humanity, but theology and visionary writing that surpasses (at least my) human understanding. I believe we have a duty to study such documents so that we may charitably try to guide others (Catholic, Protestant and otherwise) into a better understanding of Christianity.
As I said to my friend this morning, “I have written several books. As the author, I know better the true meaning of the words I have written than anyone else. If I spent time thoroughly teaching another about what I had written, he would have a far more accurate understanding of my words than someone who read my books hundreds or thousands of years later and likely does not even speak the same language. Your interpretation of the Bible is based entirely upon modern authors/ministers and your own opinions. Surely you do not think that you or they have better understanding than the Apostles who wrote the New Testament and those they personally taught?”
Unfortunately, I do not think my argument was persuasive. But, as Venerable Fulton Sheen famously said:
There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.
….If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hates… Look for the Church that is hated by the world, as Christ was hated by the world. Look for the Church which is accused of being behind the times, as Our Lord was accused of being ignorant and never having learned. Look for the Church which men sneer at as socially inferior, as they sneered at Our Lord because He came from Nazareth. Look for the Church which is accused of having a devil, as Our Lord was accused of being possessed by Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils. Look for the Church which, in seasons of bigotry, men say must be destroyed in the name of God as men crucified Christ and thought they had done a service to God. Look for the Church which the world rejects because it claims it is infallible, as Pilate rejected Christ because He called Himself the Truth. Look for the Church which is rejected by the world as Our Lord was rejected by men…
Hold fast to the Truth. Stay Strong. Believe in Jesus’ promises as taught to us by the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church…. preserved from error by the Holy spirit, given the authority of God by God. If the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, the protests of men certainly do it no harm.
Judson Carroll is the author of several books, including his newest, Confirmation, an Autobiography of Faith. It is Available in paperback on Amazon:
His new podcast is The Uncensored Catholic https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-uncensored-catholic